Wednesday, July 28, 2010

My Meyer lemon tree saga: part 1

So, despite my best efforts at neglect, a bout with scale, and some occasional munching by earwigs (I found one yesterday resting comfortably inside a curled leaf-as if it had made a little bed for itself) my potted Meyer lemon tree seems to be doing well and is growing three healthy looking lemons.

I really like this guy, but I just don't know where to put it. It doesn't really "go" with my courtyard perennials and trees- so after I re-potted it I stuck it in a sunny spot just off our city sidewalk only to realize it was in a pigeon poop zone. It's still in that general spot but the pigeons seem to have relocated. Will I be washing the lemons with soap before I use them? Yes.

I sprayed the plant with Neem oil this spring and that one spraying seemed to get rid of most of the scale. Not sure what to do about the earwigs-I don't like to spray in high summer because I don't want to burn the leaves. I could spray it and then leave it in the shade until it dries-but I probably won't resort to this unless the bugs start going nuts. I can take a little munching here and there.

In the meantime, grow little lemons, grow.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Avoiding the dreaded downy mildew fungus

So far so good. My basil is happy on my balcony and offering its spicy leaves for my tomato and mozzarella salads this year. I haven't heard of the downy mildew fungus hitting Oregon yet, but it's making its way up the east coast, through the Midwest and into California (what doesn't find its way to California?) Growers are the ones getting hit with this the worst since it's a community disease that spreads faster than a cold on an airplane.

I've been inspecting the basil regularly and looking for yellowing on the top of the leaves and gray specks (the spores) on the leaves' undersides-again, so far, so good. Not sure why I'd be getting it first but stranger things have happened. If you do find it pull the plant, isolate it and toss it in the trash-don't put it in the compost. Try not to shake the crap out of it when you remove it-this goes for all weeds and plants going to seed or those that are affected by air-borne diseases. You'll want to keep those seeds and spores on the plant and not in the air where they're going to work their magic all over again.

Keep the basil in full sun with good air circulation, regular water; you know the drill. Let's hope the dreaded fungus doesn't like Oregon as much as the hipsters do.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Coreopsis rocks!

I love coreopsis and you should too. It's one of the easiest summer perennials to grow-it's drought tolerant (really it is) especially once it's established; it's very disease, pest resistant, it's happy yellow (or combinations of orange, pink and red), it's a great cut flower, the flowers can last into fall and it doesn't spread like crazy. Some are short, some are tall, some are bold, some are delicate. I love them, and I plan to get more into the courtyard this fall. I planted four small starts in a hot, dry, dog-trampling zone and all four are thriving. I'm hoping that the whole area fills in by next summer and I plan to stick some starts in another dry zone by my mystery hardy pink rose and some spirea. Not the most exciting design, but I've got to plant really tough perennials that will live when I move and no one is watering them in the summer.

The pictured coreopsis above is a double called early sunrise and I love, love them, they're the purest of deep yellows. If you're in the Portland area check out Portland Nursery for some nice varieties-they're featured on the website this month.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

University greens are under attack

The great lawn controversy continues. According to a post on Garden Rant some of our oldest, most bad-ass university greens are under scrutiny-some are getting ripped out, some are allowed to go dormant and others are getting replaced with meadows and other "low maintenance" gardens.

In the last decade, lawns have been excessively demonized. It's one of those things that is easily attacked, I think because it is easily seen. You have a lawn? Do you realize you are consorting with the devil?

I like lawns. Yes, I am aware that they often require lots of water, fertilizer, gasoline and labor. So does all gardening. After Duke University ripped out some of their lawn and replaced it with a native meadow they realized after a few years that not only did the meadow look crummy after it bloomed but that it was becoming over run with invasive species that would require a bus load of laborers to weed and maintain properly. Not to mention, what the heck are the frisbee golfers to do? Scramble for a pass through itchy, snake ridden weeds?

I don't think our universities should be forced to give up the beauty and ease of lawns to fulfill the latest environmental fad. Sometimes being green means just easing up a little on the water and the fertilizer. Let it go dormant in summer when the kids are on break. Mow it a little less. Enhance the soil. Take out the under-utilized areas and replace them with small manageable gardens.

Let's use some common sense and realize that grass is actually not the enemy so that we can get back to the lacrosse game without being riddled with guilt.

for more:

Monday, July 19, 2010

Pieris is burning

Heavy summer pruning and shearing during the summer can be tricky. If you can, wait for a few cloudy days or limit the pruning to plants that are in the shade or out of the sun in the afternoon. And make sure not to schedule a major pruning like I did before a heat wave. This pieris did not appreciate being snipped before four days of 90 plus weather and got a nasty case of sunburn. Oops.

What to do after the damage is already done? Go ahead and prune to shape. You'll get a new flush of growth before you know it provided the plant or tree is healthy. Once the weather cools down for good this fall spend some time snipping out those old burnt leaves so you don't have to look at them anymore or just let time take it's course and let them fall naturally. And next time, wait for a cool cloudy week.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Problems with Urban Garden Share Programs

I think it's a good idea in theory-sharing a piece of your property so that someone else can garden on it. But, I'm not sure I would be up for it especially if I was the property owner. First of all, you don't really know who's showing up and since you haven't hired them they can basically do whatever they want on your property when you're not looking. And what about liability? What if someone steps on your rake and takes an eye out?

Then there are all the logistical problems. Who's going to take care of the daily or weekly maintenance? Who's paying for the supplies? What if you don't like what the people are growing or what if they take off halfway through the project and you're left with most of your lawn removed and a giant pile of sod in your driveway? I think I might know-call a professional.

I'm not saying no, just think before you share or plant. Start out small with a tiny plot that isn't going to impact the rest of your yard or drive your neighbors crazy. If you have a good experience, go from there. Trust your instincts when you meet with people and ask them what their gardening experience is. If they seem really young and naive direct them toward a community plot and look for someone how actually knows how to garden and who seems responsible enough to commit to a plan.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Removing plants that have seen better days

Maybe that old English lavender in your backyard was a flourishing and flamboyant rock star in its day, but now it's a bit of a wash-up playing county fairs and the occasional Vegas lounge. It's taking up valuable real estate-the sunniest spot in your border garden, but you just don't have the heart to remove it. Or even worse, you can't decide whether or not to remove it.

Sometimes it helps to talk it out with a gardening friend or a gardening professional. If the plant hasn't thrived in years its probably run its course and isn't going to improve. Take it out. If you need a little Irish courage to do this drink a couple of beers before hand-it helps ease the pain.

If you're attached to the plant take some of the blooms or foliage and dry them in that dictionary you never open anymore. Try to fill the space with something that will be meaningful as well-a division from a friend, or that really expensive sheared boxwood Scotty dog you've always wanted.

Gardens can get stagnant and you'll spend less time out there if you keep putting off the inevitable. After the initial pain you'll be really excited about that new space you just opened up.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Debunking gardening myths with the Renegade Gardener

The Renegade Gardener is Don Engebretson and he runs one of my favorite gardening sites thus far (other than my own of course)! One of the more useful and fun sections on the site is the "myth of the week." It's a great resource for all gardeners-his irreverent writing, midwestern sensibilites and actual understanding of science (wierd, I know) make it a great go to site to answer those hard questions like, "But God mandates that you can only divide perennials in the spring," or "Will my neighbor incite a city wide protest if I cut down a tree in my yard?" Check it out.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Burnet: a happy little addition to the herb garden

Parsely, sage, rosemary and thyme-all rock stars in the herb garden-but why not try something a little different like burnet. Impress your friends by sprinkling a little crushed burnet into their salad and watch as they dig around with their forks looking for a cucumber. Imagine their astonishment when they alas, find none.

Burnet has a unique, fresh cucumber flavor that's great in anything that calls for cukes-raita, salad, a cucumber martini for those warm summer nights. It's also a delightfully symmetrical plant with a tidy character for you neat freaks. Go on, get out of your little herb rut and try something new. I know I should.